Talented National Premier Leagues NSW Men’s star Bai Antoniou will once again call Rockdale Illinden home, a club he spent time at during the 2018 season.
The 23-year-old former Australian Under 17 International played 19 matches for Illinden that year before signing a professional contract in Cyprus – he then returned to Australia in 2019 where he spent time at Sutherland Sharks and more recently Sydney Olympic.
Injuries in 2020 hampered Antoniou’s opportunities at Olympic but the midfielder stated that he’d return to Rockdale one day following his overseas move.
“A few years back, Rockdale allowed me to leave for an overseas opportunity in Cyprus," he told nplnsw.com.au
“Prior to leaving the club, I told them I would one day return.
“After a frustrating 2020 season being injured, I felt Rockdale was the right club to help me find my best form again.”
Settling into his new surroundings hasn’t been an issue for the former Sydney FC youth star who stated to Football NSW that preseason has gone rather well.
“Preseason has been great. Tough as expected but the team is really working hard and playing some nice football so far in the trial matches we have played.
“Settling in has also been very smooth and easy as I was previously at the club and most faces around were familiar. Everyone has been very welcoming and we all cannot wait for the new season to kick-off.”
Antoniou is one of five new faces joining Steven Zoric’s talented squad with former Blacktown City midfielder Daniel Araujo, ex-Sutherland Sharks youngsters James Temelkovski, Northbridge defender Zac Sfiligoi and well-travelled keeper Enol Ordonez Suarez all set to assist in the club’s run for more silverware in 2021.
With seasoned NPL names such as Tomoki Wada, Banri Kanaizumi, Alec Urosevski, David Bradasevic, Michael Neill, Mitchell Stamatellis and Amaury Gauthier to name a few, Antionou is certainly in good company as Rockdale hope to emulate their 2020 success which saw them lift the Premiership before going down to Sydney United 58 in the Final.
“I think the objectives are clear across the club this year. We want to compete to win all that is possible for us to win.
“We have a great team and believe we can go far in all competitions.”
Antoniou was also looking forward to working under coach Steven Zoric who also had a break-out season in 2020.
“Steve is an excellent coach. He has a great football mind and is hungry to better himself and the team. He and Gaz have a lot of respect in the change room and they are clear on objectives and styles of play that they want from us.”
Asked which player has impressed him thus far during pre-season, the famous NPL NSW Men’s baker himself Alec Urosevski has been the one that has simply been on fire.
“My good friend ‘the Uro Bomber’ has impressed me so far. He’s found the back of the net in all friendlies so far. Also Mitch Stama has been impressive leading from the back.”
It what will be a baptism of fire for Antoniou, the club’s first match of the season will see them face Luke Wilkshire’s Wollongong Wolves side in the only Sunday match of round 1 at the Illinden Sports Centre on Sunday 28th of February with kick off set for 3pm.
Feature image courtesy of Football NSW